‘They’ve left us with no alternative’: The Hollywood strikes fully explained
‘AI will not replace us’
Last week, during the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, the lead cast of Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Rami Malek walked out as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) of America joined the WGA (Writers Guild America) on the picket line to stage their own protest and stand in solidarity in what is the biggest Hollywood strike in six decades. But what actually are the Hollywood actors and writers strikes in aid of? Here’s the full Hollywood strikes explained in layman’s terms if you need a quick and easy explanation.
Oppenheimer cast walks out
Christoper Nolan explained to the crowd at the Oppenheimer premiere last week
“You’ve seen them here earlier on the red carpet. Unfortunately, they’re off to write their picket signs for what we believe to be an imminent strike by SAG, joining one of my guilds, the Writers Guild, in the struggle for fair wages for working members of the unions, and we support them.”
It began the start of the SAG strike alongside the Writers Guild one, and it sees Hollywood actors and writers protesting at the headquarters of huge streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Warner Bros and Disney with a string of various demands. The Writers Guild has been protesting since May, and SAG joining them will basically shut down Hollywood. No premieres, no filming. Projects that have been halted indefinitely because of this include the Ariana Grande starring film adaptation of Wicked and the Kim Kardashian starring next season of American Horror Story.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director of SAG, said the failure to meet asks of SAG has left everyone ‘no alternative’ but to strike.
The demands of SAG and WGA are similar, and include increased wages, better residuals (streaming services have messed up what writers used to get paid for reruns), staffing requirements, shorter exclusivity deals and, perhaps most interestingly, assurance that AI will not replace them. It’s all very Joan Is Awful.
Whilst the strikes are on, SAG members will not attend film premieres, festivals or awards shows and they can’t promote their films on social media. They also can’t go to Comic Con and the like.
This isn’t about millionaires wanting more money
I feel like many first thoughts on these strikes might assume that actors and writers are already tilled, and why should we support them getting more money. But it’s important to note that not every writer and actor in these guilds is an a-list Hollywood star and some small actors who get very little are also members of SAG.
Luke Cook, an actor who has starred in shows such as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, explains this part of the strike well in the above video. “I’m not a millionaire. 95 per cent of the actors in SAG cannot make a living from acting, they’ve got to have a side hustle. I am one of those actors. The actors that you’re thinking of who are the millionaires are usually series regulars or big a-listers in big movies. The actors who surround them, guest stars and co-stars or whatever, we’re paid chips.
“I’ll give you an example. I did a show called Dollface last year and they put me on a billboard on Sunset. Do you know how much they paid me to be on the billboard? Zero. The amount they paid me to be in the show was not much better. I live in Los Angeles and I’ve got two kids. I got paid per episode, two weeks of work, $7500. Then it’s taxed, a manager takes 10 per cent, an agent takes 10 per cent and a lawyer takes five per cent. I am one rung below a series regular who is making maybe $100,000 per episode.
“A huge portion of this strike is about people like me who need to be paid more for the work that they do, and let them have a portion of what these streamers and big companies are bringing in.”
The Hollywood strikes are complicated, but I hope that getting the demands explained simplistically shows you that it’s plain simple – the big companies need to support the talent. Solidarity!
Related stories recommended by this writer:
Featured image via Chris Chew / Shutterstock